Our Wine Critics' Top Five Reds

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01 July 2011
  • Peter Forrestal's Top FiveSally Gudegon's Top FiveTony Patterson Top FiveNick Stock's Top Five

The fireside is calling, but nothing warms the heart in winter as much as a drop of fine red. So what’s it to be: a Barossa blockbuster, masterful King Valley blend, Hunter heart-starter or gladiator Grange? Five of Qantas The Australian Way’s knowledgeable wine writers select their Top Fives.

Peter Bourne

... is a full-time wine consultant whose activities include wine tastings and
education, wine list preparation, wine cellar management and wine judging.

2005 Pinot noir
Southern Tablelands $45
Nick Bulleid is a wine industry consultant, show judge and wine writer. In his spare time, he follows his passion for pinot with a tiny plot at Laggan, near Crookwell. More savoury than sweet-fruited, it has flavours of wild strawberries and ripe loganberries. A suite of cedary tannins gives depth and length to the finish.

2008 Cabernet sauvignon
Bendigo $40
Established in 1969 by Stuart Anderson, Balgownie is back in top form. Drawn from the estate’s original vines, this wine is rich, full-flavoured yet surprisingly nimble. It oozes ripe sour cherries and blackcurrants with a dense, earthy, iodine-like character. A framework of cedary tannins assures a long cellar life.

2009 Grenache blend
Rhône Valley, France $25
Chèvrefeuilles, “honeysuckle”, is an apt name for this juicy little red. It’s a blend of familiar Rhône varieties – grenache, syrah and mourvèdre with more obsure carignan, cinsaut and counoise. Savoury flavours of black cherries, thyme, bay leaf and quatre épicé (four spices). Fine, sinewy tannins.

2007 Pinot noir
Burgundy, France $111
Esmonin is one of Burgundy’s new-age makers, crafting pinots of great character and distinction. Rich, red berry flavours balanced by an array of savoury herbal, graphite-like characters. The palate is pure and sweet-fruited with power, weight and density. Bright acidity drives the finish

2009 Shiraz
Hunter Valley $72
The Tyrrell family has been growing wine since 1858. Originally planted in 1879 by founder Edward Tyrrell, 4 Acres still delivers fruit of density and intensity. This is a classic, medium-weight Hunter shiraz – a complete and complex amalgam of dark fruits, warm spice and rich, earthy characters.

Peter Forrestal

...is a regular contributor to Qantas The Australian Way, wine writer for Perth’s Sunday Times and chairman of judges for Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards.

2009 Pinot noir
Marlborough, NZ $24
This Marlborough winery is performing admirably and its standard wine is arguably the most seductive pinot currently available for less than $30. It is delightfully aromatic, has ripe bramble, redcurrant and black cherry flavours, fleshy, silky smooth texture and a gentle, fine finish; power with finesse.

2006 Shiraz
Barossa Valley $150
From an outstanding vintage and ancient vines, this is quintessential Barossa shiraz: riotously aromatic, deep, ultra-concentrated blackberry, chocolate and fruitcake flavours that meld seamlessly with vanillin oak, seductively velvety texture and supple, fine tannins. Approachable yet age-worthy

2010 Pinot noir
Mornington Peninsula $65
Downie makes three very different single-vineyard pinots (Yarra, Mornington and Gippsland) in the first rank of Aussie pinot. This is gently fragrant, with brooding redcurrant and black cherry flavours that are dense and concentrated. Vibrant, silky smooth texture and supple tannins promise long life.

2008 Pinot noir
Macedon Ranges $33
This is sourced from Rochford’s original vineyard in the Macedon Ranges and shows just how well this variety is suited to the region. It has delightfully fresh aromatics, is juicy, even succulent, with redcurrant and blackberry flavours, and a velvety texture, finishing fine, plush and long.

2009 Shiraz
Rutherglen $20
Campbells celebrated its 140th anniversary by showcasing its fortifieds and this well-priced shiraz. There is consistency, especially since 2005, with the 2009 showing the modern style of the Bobbie Burns: wonderful aromatics, ripe bright, raspberry and red plum flavours, medium body and fine, savoury tannins. Delicious

Sally Gudgeon

... is a writer who specialises in wines and spirits. She is the author of 52 Wine Lessons – A Year Of Good Drinking

2010 Tempranillo
Barossa Valley $19
Paying homage to the Spanish joven (young/un-oaked) styles, this is vibrant and fresh, rippling with juicy fruit flavours. On the nose: dark cherries, spice and hints of rosemary. The palate springs to life with juicy dark-cherry notes and soft, smooth tannins. A versatile young red with good varietal character.

2008 Merlot blend
Adelaide Hills $85
The merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend varies each year, but the emphasis is usually on merlot. The 2008 vintage shows how magical this partnership can be. On the nose are violets, exotic spice and mulberries. The palate has fleshy fruit flavours backed with ripe tannins and lipsmacking acidity.

2007 Pinot noir
Penna $65
Frogmore Creek is producing some of Tasmania’s most stylish wines and is committed to sustainable viticulture. This pinot has a stunning nose with spice, bitter cherries, herbs and forest-floor aromas. In the mouth, it is finely structured with a complex, mineral intensity, silky tannins and racy acid.

2006 Shiraz blend
King Valley $48
A cabernet sauvignon/shiraz/nebbiolo/sangiovese blend reminiscent of Italian “Super Tuscan” wines. Each variety is aged and fermented separately, then blended and aged for two more years. Aromatic nose with notes of tar, black cherries, cardamom and liquorice. Svelte, seductive palate with layers of flavour and chalky tannins

2009 Shiraz
Geelong $45
Doug Neal is producing some incredible wines. This is a true cool-climate shiraz: earthy, perfumed and peppered with Szechuan spice. Every swirl reveals another layer of interest leading onto a supple and focused palate. Bright and harmonious, it flows seamlessly along the palate to a structured, dry finish.

Toni Patterson

... is a Master of Wine, a writer, wine judge and trained winemaker.

2009 Shiraz
Hunter Valley $60
This single-vineyard wine, from an old-vine vineyard, is a modern interpretation of Hunter shiraz. It is superb, with aromas of raspberries, spice, flowers and fresh cream – reminiscent of a summer pudding. Medium-bodied and incredibly bright palate. Enjoy in its youth with roasted lamb or age for further complexity.

2009 Shiraz
Margaret River $38
Voyager reds are some of my favourites. Despite its youth, this benefits from decanting, revealing heady aromas of intense blueberry and red rose petals. The palate is very rich and chocolatey, with a little background oak that melds into the wine with time. Refined, generous,
silky and delicious.

2008 Shiraz
McLaren Vale $50
From a 0.8ha block, planted in 1977, this shiraz is an example of the unique styles of wine produced in McLaren Vale from different soil types. The vineyard is managed using biodynamic principles and the resulting wine is energetic and concentrated, in fact different from most other McLaren Vale shiraz I have tried.

2009 Shiraz
Margaret River $35
This is only the third vintage of this wine and already it has become one of my favourites. Fragrant mulberry and dark-cherry aromas introduce a palate of ripe plums and dark chocolate. The supple and generously flavoured palate has integrated ripe tannins, highlighting the suitability of shiraz to the Margaret River.

2009 Shiraz blend
Barossa & Eden Valley $34
This eminently drinkable wine is classy, complex and great value. It is a blend of shiraz, grenache, viognier and mourvèdre, resulting in a melange of spices, fragrant berries and plums. I enjoy the intellectual element of this wine – as it continually changes in the glass, exciting the senses. Soft, easy drinking


Nick Stock

... writes for Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine and is author of The Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide.

2010 Sangiovese
Canberra $21
As the heart and soul of Chianti, sangiovese should be easy to drink yet able to be matched with a range of flavours, especially meat and tomato-based dishes. Enter this bright bottle of cherry and spice-flavoured red, carried along on supple tannins, gently fleshy and balanced for immediate drinking.

2009 Cabernet merlot
Margaret River $25
This is one of the great-value reds, delivering all the pedigree and class of Margaret River cabernet at an everyday drinking price. Cassis, mulberry and regional notes of leaves and herbs wrapped up in handsomely cedary French oak. Terrific structure and a balanced, drinkable style.

2006 Grange
Multi-regional $600
Blending across a number of vineyards and districts, Grange can be quite a different beast from year to year. This 2006 is one of their stronger releases – packed with dark plum, chocolate, liquorice and toasty oak. It has a silky youthful sheen, with sturdy, age-worthy tannins below deck.

2010 Pinot noir
Macedon Ranges $50
From a superb site and intelligently made, Bindi pinots are effortless enjoyment. This is alive with fragrant perfume and packed with bright, juicy red-fruit flavour. Quartz soils combine with the cool climate to deliver fine tannins and impressive freshness.

2009 Grenache blend
Barossa & Eden Valley $29
This shiraz/grenache/mataro blend delivers the best of each variety and takes on a complete Barossa flavour. Grenache lifts the nose with floral, red-fruit aromas, shiraz ensures there are darker berries and plenty of flesh, and mataro anchors it together with muscular, smooth tannins.


Nick Stock, Sally Gudgeon, Toni Patterson, Peter Bourne, Peter Forrestal


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  • Agree with Nick. The Penfolds grange is amazing.
  • Agree with Nick. The Penfolds grange is amazing.

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